SOUTH Africa’s superstar wing Bryan Habana confesses he is wary of Wales’ “great back three” ahead of the clash with the Six Nations champions next month.
The 30-year-old former International Rugby Board player of the year admits the Springboks will be on their guard to deal with giant flyers George North and Alex Cuthbert as well as full back Leigh Halfpenny.
South Africa are the visitors to the Millennium Stadium on Saturday, November 9 for Wales’ first clash since a sizeable Welsh contingent played a significant role in securing a 2-1 series win for the British and Irish Lions in Australia this summer.
The Springboks are showing great promise despite losing out to New Zealand twice in the Rugby Championship this season as they finished as the tournament’s runners-up.
They pushed the All Blacks hard in both games, particularly during the competition’s finale weekend when they were still in with a shout of the title before going down to the visitors 38-27 at Ellis Park in a modern classic.
Habana, a 2007 World Cup winner who scored his 53rd try in his 92nd Test for the Boks in that engrossing contest earlier this month, is predicting a humdinger month.
"We are really looking forward to the challenge of going to Cardiff and a lot of the Welsh players will be on a real high after what was a fantastic Lions series,” he said.
"Numerous amounts of those boys were involved and it was a successful series due to the way a lot of those boys played.
"I love travelling to Wales and it's going to be an epic battle. Obviously I hope I'm involved as it would be great to be in the green and gold jersey, playing in Cardiff.”
Wales have only every beaten the Boks once in their history – 29-19 in 1999 – but they came close the last time the two met, South Africa winning 29-25 three years ago at the Millennium Stadium after an entertaining encounter which saw North make his Test debut as an 18-year-old.
Habana, who is a recent addition to Heineken Cup holders Toulon’s star-studded squad, was his opposite number that day and remembers it well.
"Playing in Cardiff is a special place and I remember playing against George North on his debut where he scored two tries against the Springboks.” he said.
"Wales have got a fantastic back three, who yet again on the Lions tour showed their worth and they are stand out players.
"George really showed what he can do and was part of a great back three. Leigh Halfpenny was man of the series and he is not only great with the ball in hand but is a ferocious kicker and we know we will have to be highly disciplined in attack and defence.”
On his side's 37-28 defeat to the All Blacks in Johannesburg a fortnight ago, Habana added: "We had a fantastic build up to the game and we wanted a fairy-tale ending to the Championship but it wasn't to be.
"It's really disappointing but we will dig deep, look at ourselves as players, see where we let ourselves down and see how we improve as a Springbok side.
"We have to give huge credit to the All Blacks, but we let ourselves down in defence and that is where we lost the game.”